When Ruth Hines received an early morning phone call from William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, the administrative staff specialist assumed he wanted to speak with Provost Michael Halleran.
“I said, ‘Good morning Taylor, did you want to speak with Michael?’ He said, ‘No, it’s you I want to talk to,’” Hines recounted.
When she learned that Reveley had called to inform her that she would be the recipient of the 2013 Duke Award, she was shocked to say the least.
“I started crying,” Hines recalled. “I told Taylor, ‘I’m so sorry I’m crying, but I just never in my wildest dreams expected to receive this recognition. It’s far and above anything I think I deserve.’”
“I told Ruth she deserved the Duke Award, pressed down and running over, for her extraordinary service at William & Mary. Her great work and good humor have helped countless members of the campus community,” Reveley said.
The Charles and Virginia Duke Award, established in 1997, is presented each year to a staff member for his or her outstanding service and dedication to the College. Awardees receive $5,000 with the award as well as recognition during the College’s annual Commencement ceremony.
Hines’s characteristic humility is but one of the many outstanding qualities William & Mary faculty and staff recognized in nominating her for the award.
“Ruth is, bar none, the hardest worker I have ever known. Ruth simply puts her head down, gets on with the job and completes each task to perfection. She asks for no praise or recognition for doing an excellent job,” said Kate Slevin, vice provost for academic affairs, in a nomination letter.
Hines’s nearly 37 years of service to William & Mary in multiple offices have endeared her to the many faculty and students she has encountered, many of whom see her as a fixture at the College.
“Ruth is absolutely my role model—someone who is faultlessly professional and always goes the extra mile to make sure that our community is strong and healthy even in the most trying times,” said Tamara Sonn, Kenan Professor of Humanities, in a nomination letter. “If anyone deserves the Duke Award, it is Ruth Hines.”
‘The College is my life’
Hines had a connection to William & Mary even before beginning work here. From 1974-76, she worked in the admissions office of Hampden-Sydney College when another Taylor Reveley (the father of William & Mary’s) was president of H-SC.
In 1976, Hines began her career at William & Mary working in the law school admissions office, which was then housed on the third floor of James Blair Hall.
After four years in law admissions, Hines moved to the president’s office where she worked for a decade before taking a position in the provost’s office in 1990. She worked there until 1999, when she took what she calls her “pseudo-retirement” during which she ostensibly retired, but still came to work part-time for special projects or to fill in for others. Finally, in 2002, she came back to her full-time position in the provost’s office where she remains today.
“My first job at the College was in James Blair Hall on the third floor, and here I am back home in James Blair—temporarily,” Hines said, referring to the president’s and provost’s offices temporary housing in Blair pending the completion of the Brafferton renovations.
Hines has seen many changes during her decades at William & Mary, including the advent of the computer age. She particularly remembers her time at the law school admissions office when students either hand-delivered or mailed their typewritten applications.
“One time this student called and was so upset because the applications had to be postmarked by a certain date to get to us, and his hometown had been literally washed away by a flood in West Virginia and the post office wasn’t there anymore. He was calling us to tell us that he had to go to another town to mail his application and he was afraid it wouldn’t get here in time,” she recalled.
The process of modernization at the College had a great personal influence on Hines’s life. In the mid-1980s, the College was in the process of updating its telephone system.
“That’s how I met my husband—he came to put in a telephone,” she said, recalling the day Dickie Hines—who did not normally service William & Mary—covered for another installation technician.
“Dickie came over to install a phone and made a life-long connection,” Hines recounted with a grin.
A life of service
Hines’s service to the College community is not limited to her jobs—she goes beyond the call of duty in helping those both within and outside the William & Mary family. A charter member of the Hourly and Classified Employees Association, Hines served as the organization’s secretary before becoming vice-president and later president.
“The organization unfortunately now has been abolished, but at the time, I will say the organization did a lot of really good things, good outreach. At that time, we began our program of providing stockings for senior citizens for the Salvation Army, which a couple of us continue to do representing the College,” Hines said, noting the organization also helped with an employee assistance fund, outreach to Avalon women’s shelter, and other community organizations.
Hines had a variety of jobs before coming to William & Mary, including working at the hospital in Farmville, Va., various hotels, and Hampden-Sydney, so why did she choose to spend her career at William & Mary?
“Every job that I’ve had involves people sleeping there. The College is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not like a lot of other places, like a doctor’s office, where you close at 5 and go home. There’s always somebody here, there’s always something going on.”
It is this excitement and the continually evolving atmosphere that has captivated Hines for most of the last four decades.
“I know that when I came here, I really felt that it was the right place for me. I felt comfortable here. I felt that there was a good sense of community here at the College. I just love what I’m doing. I love the different jobs that I’ve had and how they’ve evolved over the years. I’ve never been bored,” Hines said. “The College is my life.”
When asked if there was anything she would change if she could go back to 1976, Hines’s reply was immediate.
“I would absolutely do it all over again,” she said.